Anticipation’s always a dangerous thing to have, as you no doubt know. Many a time I’ve entered a darkened cinema expecting much from the film I’m about to see, only to walk out two hours later mournfully shaking my head and muttering ”How…how did it all go so wrong…?”. So I always try hard to avoid anticipating a film too much these days, don’t think I haven’t learnt my lesson after too many lacklustre Star Wars films like Solo and The Last Jedi, oh no.
But at the time when Shaun Of The Dead was released I had no choice. No choice at all. Because not only did the film involve Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, two thirds of the creative team behind the much loved C4 sitcom Spaced, but the rest of the cast was largely made up of some of the best comedians working at that time. And there’s more, as a mostly now forgotten Irish comedian used to say, as a friend of mine appears in the film as one of the zombies, and during his time working on the film he regaled me with tales of how fantastic an experience it had been, and how this was truly going to be one of the greatest films ever made. Or words to that effect.
So yeah, I admit it, I expected a hell of a lot from this film. And thank the lord people, or any religious deity you wish to worship, for once a film I had high expectations for delivered. And how. Worryingly it does get off to a slightly shaky start though, as Shaun (Pegg) and his best mate Ed (Frost) seem vaguely appealing, but, dare I say it…Slightly annoying? Ah, I’m afraid so. In Spaced, Pegg and Frost’s characters Tim and Mike were as adorable as cute little kittens playing with balls of wool but here Ed comes across as arrogant and a bit of a wanker if I’m to be completely honest, whilst Shaun begins the movie in an ultra-stressed mode. Though this is forgivable considering how his girlfriend’s just dumped him, his life suddenly seems utterly aimless, and everyone hates Ed and blames him for his presence in their lives.
But as soon as the zombie’s begin appearing, which doesn’t take long, Shaun of the Dead becomes an incredibly enjoyable ride, far better than any at Alton Towers or Thorpe Park. Ed and Shaun become far more likeable as they attempt to help they’re friends and relatives survive, and far funnier too. Pegg and Wright clearly had a passion for zombie movies and knew how to send them up perfectly, whilst retaining the ability to scare the shit out of you from time to time just to keep things unexpected and unpredictable. The plot’s a tad on the slight side with little explanation made for what’s happening, but isn’t that always the case with zombie movies, and more importantly it benefits the film as it doesn’t get bogged down with the specifics and just concentrates on being horribly funny, and sometimes just plain horrible. Surprisingly the gore’s kept to a relative minimum until the third act, where events become much darker, but it all fits in perfectly with the atmosphere subtly created throughout. The astonishingly good cast make it all the more fun as well, with Dylan Moran, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Peter Serafinowicz, Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy all turning in superb performances, and then there’s of course the surprise cameos, which are a thing of beauty.
The only thing which affects my enjoyment is that I could have been in it. For the aforementioned friend told me they were looking for more people to be zombie-fied and I asked for the time off work, only to be refused. As you might imagine my former employers are on my list of enemies due to this, indeed they’re the only name on it. One day I might forgive them but it’s unlikely to be honest given how this film is now considered a classic. But I try not to let that spoil my love for the movie each time I watch it, which has been a fair amount over the years.
This review really could have been much much longer, trust me I’m dying to wax lyrically about so many great moments in the film, but that really would spoil it if you’re one of the very few yet to see it. Shaun of the Dead’s easily the greatest comedy horror movie ever made in Britain, and as we’re in cliched movie review endings mode, it’s a must see for all the family. Well, if your family enjoys laughing hard whilst blood and guts spray violently across the screen anyway.